In collaboration with the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, the East Peoria Chamber of Commerce hosted its August Eggs and Issues breakfast meeting Friday at the Par-A-Dice Hotel and Casino.

The eggs were served at a breakfast buffet. The issues were served by three guest speakers who addressed various aspects of the meeting’s focal topic: the impact of spending locally. Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich maintained that patronizing local businesses is vital to local governments and public safety because sales taxes are the largest source of city revenue.

“Nearly a quarter of all our revenues are derived from sales taxes,” he said. “When we add in hotel, restaurant and amusement taxes, we have another 5 percent. Then, after we add in other locally-driven revenues, about 80 percent of our revenues are generated locally. So, local spending is critical.”

Online shopping, Urich added, has eroded sales tax revenues over the past 10 years. When a shopper spends $100 on goods and services at a local business, the city, county and local school districts receive about $3.50 in sales tax. If a shopper spends the same $100 on the same goods and services online, the city and county receive 1.2 cents.

“It’s a significant impact,” Urich stated. “All of our police and firefighters are paid by revenue from sales taxes.”

East Peoria City Commissioner of Accounts and Finance Gary Densberger then addressed the impact of spending locally on East Peoria’s economy. Over the past two decades, he noted, the City of East Peoria embarked on efforts to develop its business community. As part of that strategy, the city shifted its reliance from property taxes to sales taxes as a chief source of revenue.

“In Fiscal Year 2010, the City of East Peoria collected about $9.9 million in sales tax,” said Densberger.  “That’s a good base, and it’s grown. For Fiscal Year 2018, that figure is $15.2 million, which represents about 29 percent of the city’s revenue.”

Spending money at local businesses and generating sales taxes for local governments benefits the entire community, Densberger added. Local spending helps support the framework of a community, sustain local businesses and, most importantly, create jobs.

“Given the media reports of the demise of retail brick-and-mortar business, some would say that East Peoria’s strategy of moving toward a retail economy has some risk,” he said. “There is a risk. However, I would venture to say Mark Twain had it right when it comes to brick-and-mortar retail. ‘The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.’ Brick-and-mortar retail’s not going away.”

The morning’s last speaker, Peoria International Airport Director Gene Olson, reminded the audience that spending locally should be a consideration not only when purchasing retail goods and services, but also when buying an airline ticket. The airport has enjoyed considerable success in recent years, expanding services and doubling the number of cities to which it can provide direct service since 2006. A traveler embarking at Peoria International can now fly directly to 12 cities throughout the United States and can reach many international destinations with one change of planes.

“Our airport doesn’t just give you access to your favorite vacation destinations. It gives you access to the world,” he said. “If you added in all the cities you can get to with two changes of planes, you could probably connect to the rest of the world. If you have to change planes three times, I’m not sure you really want to go there.”

Olson emphasized the importance of spending locally because the airport stands to lose revenue through a practice he called leakage. Many local travelers buying airline tickets in the Peoria area have been choosing to drive to other airports, particularly Chicago O’Hare.

“We have about 200 people a day who are driving to Chicago to catch flight,” he said. “That’s four 50-seat planes every day we could be filling. So, I ask anyone who’s thinking about taking a trip to think about starting that trip from Peoria.”